View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 7 December 2009

History of Scotland

The BBC's Neil Oliver has been commissioned to present a series (or two) of programmes on the history of Scotland. I've sat through three of them, and am far from impressed. Mr Oliver, who first rose to prominence as presenter of the Coast programmes, tends to digress, focus on minor details and omit the important. A previous episode appeared to be more about the American war of independence than about Scotland - for sure, Scots had some part to play in that, naturally. But it was relevent to American history, not really to Scottish. Last night's episode, on the 20th century, had more holes in it than a Swiss cheese, omitting such major events like the Glasgow rising of 1919, the Clydebank Blitz of '41, and the accession of the SNP to government - after Mr Oliver spent half the program charting the party's fortunes in the 20th century.

History is a contentious subject, and my grasp of Scottish history is not good enough to really be able to write a well-founded critique of Mr Oliver's series. Others have done that elsewhere. I can only repeat what I started my post with: far from impressed.

Credit: Image above courtesy BBC


The Danish capital is playing host to a major international conference on climate change. One of the items under discussion is whether climate change is actually real. An exchange of emails, leaked from Cambridge University, appears to show the scientific community at loggerheads over the issue. Particularly those whose livelihood depends on the usage of oil tend to refer to this.

BBC News highlighted the issue of renewable energy and NIMBY'ism (Not In My Back Yard). Wind turbines tend to generate a lot of opposition from those living in the proximity of a windfarm - the Isle of Lewis has seen off one proposed windfarm on the grounds that it was in breach of an EU habitat directive. Elsewhere though, those opposing windfarm developments are accused of NIMBY'ism and narrow-mindedness. However, I will say that there is way too much focus on wind-energy as a source of renewable energy; wave- and tidal energy are actually more constant and reliable.

I can see that the Copenhagen Conference will see a lot of hot air and wonderfully phrased commitments. Whether it will lead to any major progress to fight climate change remains to be seen. To those who don't believe climate change is real: the extent of the polar ice cap has decreased by double-figure percentage points in the last few decades; the British Met Office has also released data showing that average temperatures have been on the rise in recent times.

7 December 1941

Today is the 68th anniversary of the attack by Imperial Japanese forces on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack propelled the USA into the Second World War, eventually helping to vanquish Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Lest we forget.

Image courtesy University of Maine, showing USS Arizona on fire and sinking after the attacks.

Monday 7 December

A half-decent morning, with showers and strong winds. The wind will abate and the showers are expected to fade away. Tomorrow, gales and rain will return - more steady winter weather will arrive on Wednesday, and temperatures will fall. At the moment, it's about 8C.

All this weather did not deter the so-called flash mob which took turns protesting outside the Town Hall here in Stornoway this morning. There are plans afoot to make major alterations to the interior of the building, and this morning, internet and mobile phone messages went round for people to come and go in protest. The BBC termed it a flash mob. Footage is expected to be shown on local news this evening.

Stornoway Town Hall was built in 1905, burned down in 1918 and rebuilt in 1929. It is one of the most noticeable buildings in this town, and the interior is equally unique. As most of my readers are not familiar with the building, I won't go into the fine print of the proposals, but sufficient to say, there is a groundswell of opinion opposed to any changes. I can only say that not all change is bad.

The below picture shows the interior of the building in July 2006, when a group of Norwegian folk dancers were in full flow.